PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - New Horizons in Plettenberg Bay are fed up with being what they believe is Bitou’s “forgotten community” and are demanding that their housing needs be addressed.
A group of residents from this community on the outskirts of the town highlighted their plight through protest action on the N2 last week.
The protest was staged during the evening of 28 June when they burnt tyres and other objects on the national road at Barons, an area between New Horizons and Kwanokuthula, which led to the closing of the road until about 01:00 on 29 June.
Former municipal spokesperson Manfred van Rooyen said the road was reopened after a tense stand-off between the police and protesters.
Weeks of protest action
This action came after a series of riots in Bitou more than two weeks ago that brought the town to a near standstill. Starting in Qolweni, it later spread to other communities across Bitou and only came to an end when mayor Peter Lobese met with residents and subsequently addressed their issues which included housing, schools, clinics and unemployment.
A member of the Concerned Residents Forum of New Horizons, Granville Neldritt, said the community has been promised housing for many years, but that barely any of these has materialised.
900 'backyard dwellers'
He said he believes the reason New Horizons has been overlooked is because the community does not have a traditional informal settlement. “But there are about 900 residents who are considered backyard dwellers, who live in shacks in yards of friends and family. These are people who have been born and raised in Plettenberg Bay,” Neldritt said.
He added that what further exacerbates the situation is that other communities – many that are home to people from outside the borders of Bitou – are being developed.
“In Kwanokuthula they are already busy with Phase 5 of development and Pine Trees, right next door to New Horizons, has also received housing. Many of these beneficiaries are from rural Eastern Cape. They come here, receive a home, rent it out and then go back to the Eastern Cape.”
Not the first protest
He added that the only housing development in New Horizons over the past two decades has been a few units earmarked for elderly residents.
It is not the first time that housing frustrations have resulted in protest action in New Horizons. In 2016 there were several violent housing protests in which five RDP homes in the area were destroyed. This was sparked over concerns that included the number of homes being built compared to the massive housing backlog in the community as well as claims of substandard construction of these units.
At the time the municipality was in the process of building just more than 60 homes although there was a backlog of more than 2 000.
Former mayor promised much
Former Bitou mayor Memory Booysen said at the time that negotiations to purchase 1 469ha of land suitable for housing in the area had been concluded and an offer to purchase signed. The land is a portion of the Hillview Farm and funds to purchase it would be provided by the Western Cape government as well as the Bitou Municipality.
This he said would be the first phase of the municipality’s land acquisition plans.
Booysen also said at the time that negotiations with the provincial government for funding to purchase more properties for housing for New Horizons had been ongoing. The second phase was set to include 39ha, the third phase 6.77ha and the fourth phase 23.19ha.
'Nothing has changed'
Neldritt said that nothing had come of this.
He added that they had a meeting with Lobese about their concerns last week and that they were expecting feedback on Wednesday 4 July.
He added that the forum has been trying to “calm” the community as they understand that addressing housing issues is "a process”, but also understand residents’ frustration.
Neldritt said another concern for the New Horizons community is unemployment. “Unfortunately unemployment and subsequent poverty lead to many social ills and these are plaguing our community.”
Knysna-Plett Herald is awaiting comment from the Bitou Municipality.
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